facebook linkedin twitter

ABA Asks Supreme Court to Confirm Standard for Effective Counsel in Capital Cases

February 28, 2020 by Dan McCue
A police officer stands guard on the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, June 15, 2017. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief Thursday asking the Supreme Court to hear the case of an Arkansas man challenging the way a lower court assessed whether he received effective counsel during the punishment phase of his death penalty trial.

Timothy Wayne Kemp was convicted in Arkansas of four counts of murder and sentenced to death.

At issue is whether his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to adequately investigate and present mitigating evidence related to Kemp’s childhood abuse, fetal-alcohol exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Both the trial court and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the investigation of Kemp’s background as sufficient, although both concluded a more complete investigation could have prevented a death sentence from being imposed.

In its brief the ABA cited its own guidelines for the appointment of counsel in death penalty cases, arguing the trial court did not meaningfully apply the “prevailing professional norms” standard that governs this case.

The brief also points to the 1984 Supreme Court decision in Strickland v. Washington, in which the justices held that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel also carried with it a means to assess whether a defense attorney was objectively deficient, and whether there was a reasonable probability that a competent attorney would have led to a different outcome.

The ABA brief said that in recent years courts have “seized on language” in a 2009 Supreme Court decision to avoid conducting a legal and factual analysis of whether counsel’s representation fell short of an objective standard of reasonableness in light of “prevailing professional norms.”

The effect in the Kemp case, the ABA brief argued, was that the lower courts upheld the death sentence even though his counsel’s failure to hire a mitigation investigator or perform a more robust background investigation “fell below relevant benchmarks for reasonable counsel performance.”

“Had this attorney fulfilled his duty to conduct a thorough investigation of Kemp’s background consistent with the Sixth Amendment and prevailing professional norms, the lawyer would have discovered evidence that would have likely saved Kemp from a sentence of death,” the brief said.The case is Timothy Wayne Kemp v. Dexter Payne, Director, Arkansas Department of Corrections.

A+
a-

Supreme Court

Justices' Abortion Remarks: Is it Time to Overturn Roe?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court heard arguments in which it was asked to overturn a nationwide right to abortion that has... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court heard arguments in which it was asked to overturn a nationwide right to abortion that has existed for nearly 50 years. The fate of the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion throughout the United States and its 1992 ruling in... Read More

December 1, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Supreme Court Case Hints at Change In Federal Agency Regulation Decisions

WASHINGTON — Conservative judges on the Supreme Court suggested this week during arguments in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit over Medicare drug... Read More

WASHINGTON — Conservative judges on the Supreme Court suggested this week during arguments in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit over Medicare drug reimbursement that now might be the time to overturn a decades-old guiding principle of administrative law. The issue in American Hospital Association v. Becerra is a... Read More

Justices Signal They'll OK New Abortion Limits, May Toss Roe

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Wednesday signaled it would uphold Mississippi's 15-week ban on abortion and... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Wednesday signaled it would uphold Mississippi's 15-week ban on abortion and may go much further to overturn the nationwide right to abortion that has existed for nearly 50 years. The fate of the court’s historic 1973 Roe... Read More

Abortion Rights at Stake in Historic Supreme Court Arguments

WASHINGTON (AP) — Abortion rights are on the line at the Supreme Court in historic arguments over the landmark ruling nearly 50... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Abortion rights are on the line at the Supreme Court in historic arguments over the landmark ruling nearly 50 years ago that declared a nationwide right to end a pregnancy. The justices on Wednesday will weigh whether to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15... Read More

Supreme Court Set to Take Up All-or-Nothing Abortion Fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — Both sides are telling the Supreme Court there's no middle ground in Wednesday's showdown over abortion. The justices can... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Both sides are telling the Supreme Court there's no middle ground in Wednesday's showdown over abortion. The justices can either reaffirm the constitutional right to an abortion or wipe it away altogether. Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion, is... Read More

November 24, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Supreme Court Sides With Tennessee in Dispute Over Aquifer Water Rights

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that Tennessee and Mississippi must limit their use of water from... Read More

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that Tennessee and Mississippi must limit their use of water from an underground aquifer to give each other a chance at it. The ruling takes on added significance as global warming makes water rights a touchier subject... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top